Russia is dealing with a natural disaster of biblical proportions. Millions of locusts are swarming over farmland in southern Russia, destroying crops desperately needed in the economically depressed nation. At least 800 hectares of land are infested with locusts, leading officials to declare a state of emergency in the region. It has been over three decades since southern Russia has dealt with such an overwhelming plague of locusts. “In Kalmikya, Astrakhan, Volgagrad, and Dagestan, there is already no food left for the locusts, so they have moved on to other sources of food,” says Tatiana Drishcheva of the Russia Agricultural Center.
Because of their size, individually and as a group, these insects have quite an appetite. “They have wingspans of nearly 12 centimeters, like small sparrows,” says Drischeva. However, the giant swarms are composed of locusts of varying sizes and ages. Some are able to only hop along, while others are fully in flight.
Along with unusually high temperatures and strong floods in Russia, the locust plague is being linked to climate change. Officials have noted the insects have already consumed 10 percent of the region’s harvest and will continue to feast until they’ve had their fill. As the insects gorge themselves, farmers struggle to make ends meet. In response to the emergency, officials have increased their efforts to eliminate the locusts by spraying crops with pesticides. However, they acknowledge the effectiveness of the pesticide treatment has been reduced by hot summer temperatures.